In a small but important step toward restoring sanity in America, President Joe Biden has officially scrapped Donald Trump’s plan to build a “National Garden of American Heroes.” The outdoor sculpture park would have honored a perplexingly eclectic mix of nearly 250 figures — from athletes and pop culture icons to the conservative former Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia and, ironically, Hannah Arendt, known for her writings on the dangers of totalitarianism.
Proposed by the former president at the height of Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year, the initiative was one of six Trump actions squashed in an executive order last Friday. Biden also revoked his predecessor’s authorization of harsh prison sentences for those who vandalize monuments as well as his bizarre order to rebrand US foreign aid with a single logo that “embodies the values and generosity of the American people.”
On the downside, the National Garden of American Heroes would have provided a unique opportunity for activists to topple multiple problematic monuments in one sitting, including statues of conservative author William F. Buckley and several slave-owning presidents. But I, for one, am relieved that Harriet Tubman, Aretha Franklin, and Julia Child will not be memorialized in close proximity to the likenesses of Ronald Reagan and Christopher Columbus, who wasn’t even American.